The “Town Center” at Innovation – and 1,744 More Residential Units on the Side?

Update: Board of County Supervisors has approved spending another $50,000 for a “new real estate market analysis”  – see County Dusts Off Town Center Plans at Tech Park.

The Route 1 corridor and Innovation offer the greatest potential for smart growth in Prince William.   Transit-oriented development is the only way to reduce future traffic congestion, as the county’s population grows by over 30% during the next 20 years.  That’s a lot of extra cars, and growth=congestion unless we develop differently.

Prince William officials blather about smart growth, but speak with a forked tongue because they keep approving same-old-dumb-growth projects such as Avendale.  Innovation offers a rare opportunity where the county might walk the talk, where housing really may be co-located with jobs and public facilities to create a live-work-play community.

In coordination with GMU and private landowners, Prince William County is planning another Comprehensive Plan Amendment (CPA) for Innovation, modifying the existing Sector Plan.  In addition to the GMU facilities, under the “Anchored Town Center” proposal up to 900 residential units plus two hotels could be built between the current campus and Route 234 Bypass.

Look close, however, and you’ll notice in the consultant report that 646 more housing units are also being proposed in District 1 and 1,098 housing units are proposed in District 2 between the campus and Wellington Road.  The current Sector Plan proposes Town Center Office/Research and Development in those areas – office development that generates local, do-not-need-to-commute-to-Fairfax-or-DC jobs.  The town center was in the old Sector Plan; the Comprehensive Plan Amendment is necessary to transform a chunk of Innovation from a job location into just another housing development.

Also, as noted in the News and Messenger article, developers might ask for taxpayers to finance their housing project by subsidizing the parking.  Taxpayers have already built the roads, stormwater, and other utilities at Innovation, but hey – why not ask for one more land use subsidy, since county officials seem incapable of negotiating for development that will create local jobs?

The four graphics below illustrate the proposals:

1) where GMU proposes to build 105 apartments (red star) and town center next to Route 234 bypass:

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2) Concept sketch of mixed use “town center” development between GMU campus and Route 234 Bypass:

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3) where 646 additional housing units might be built in District 1 plus 1,098 additional units in District 2, between the GMU campus and Wellington Road:

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4) where the current Sector Plan proposes offices with local jobs (blue arrow is District 1, green arrow is District 2), rather than 1,744 housing units:

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